|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Module - F
Unit - F04
Lesson F0422: Enquiry on the self
By Raja Subramaniyan
The word 'self' normally means the combination of consciousness and inert matter. Sperm is an inert chemical but unlike other chemicals, it has a potential to develop into a conscious being. This potential cannot be its nature, which can be proved through P/A Logic. Therefore, one has to conclude that it is not possible to explain how a conscious being evolved out of inert chemicals.
Science claims that the consciousness evolved out of inert matter, although they cannot explain how it could happen.
Logic tells us that consciousness is superior to inert matter. However, it is not possible to answer the question how we are born and what happens to the consciousness after death. We understand how the physical body originates from ovary after conception and how it ends at death. Since the inert part of the self (body) comes and goes, it can be logically concluded that the consciousness should be immortal atleast compared to the physical body.
The cause-effect relationship is valid only to certain level. In any field of science, it is not possible to establish a cause beyond three or four levels.
Example: What causes cancer? Due to smoking cigarettes. There are many who smoke but do not get cancer! Many who do not smoke but get cancer. May be due to heredity! Then why the siblings do not get cancer?
Since cause-effect is true only upto certain level, it can be logically debated whether it has any validity at all. Since we cannot scientifically arrive at the root cause of any effect in any field of science, it can be concluded that the resultant universe that we perceive has no cause.
We do see self as a combination of consciousness and inert body. We cannot determine the cause-effect of this combination. Therefore, we need to resort to the Scriptures, which declare that the consciousness part of our self (referred as Self) is the only reality and the rest is illusion.
Our experience has given us the wrong knowledge about our real self. We need to gain stronger evidence through scientific enquiry to understand our true nature. Once we gain the right knowledge about ourselves, we can be firmly rooted on it.
Unless we observe the presence of the real cloth that supports the entire picture, we will not be able to accept the relative reality of the dress worn by the human figures in the picture. Similarly, we cannot accept the relative reality of the universe, unless we understand the absolute reality of the Self because that is the basis, which supports the superimposed falsehood.
From the inputs that we receive from our five sense organs, we deduce the environment around us.
Example: Based on the childish voice that we hear we assume the speaker is a child. When we see the speaker, we get stronger evidence that the speaker is an adult with childish voice.
There is a contradiction: Ears report that the speaker is a child. Eyes report the speaker is an adult. We can ascertain the correct knowledge only through enquiry. If we observe that the voice is coming only from the speaker and we see him to be an adult then we should disbelieve the ears. But on our observance if it is found the person who is in front of us is moving the lips and a child is giving the voice from behind a screen, then we need to take the ears as the stronger source of evidence.
This ability to identify the stronger source is the key to find the right knowledge. Our five senses, keep reporting the existence of the universe around us. However, the Scriptures tell us that ONE alone is real and the rest are illusion.
Now we need to discriminate between the knowledge given by the five senses and the knowledge given by the Scriptures and determine which one is superior. This depends on how good we are in our analytical capability.
Example: A ventriloquist can easily fool less intelligent people that the childish voice is coming from the lip movement of his adult companion. Only people with stronger discriminative power can figure out the truth.
Thus if we can discriminate properly we can figure out that the whole universe, including our body/mind complex is an illusion. If we enquire deeply, we will find out that there is someone observing the illusory universe. This observer, me is the only reality.
Statement 49: I am the only reality.
During the initial steps of the enquiry, we may find out that there is something real out there. This is indirect knowledge. When we know, "I am that", it becomes the direct knowledge.
It is important that one should continue the enquiry until the indirect knowledge matures into direct knowledge.